Friday, May 26, 2017

Now Open!

Today's the day! "Off the Grid" is now open in the Center Gallery of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The select group of quilts includes mostly abstract, geometric patchwork representing my early impressions of the quilts of the 1970s.

My first impression was "COLOR!!!" Everything about the color seemed strangely familiar, but dramatically different in the context of American quilt history.


It was a much-referred-to but almost completely unstudied period -- the great quiltmaking revival of the 1970s. Where were the quilts? Many of them were fresh to the market in 2010 and later.

The quilts were priced to sell, and the period wasn't picked to death. Just the opposite. Hardly anyone else was collecting 1970s quilts. I had an absolute field day.

Even though I lived through the 1970s, I saw the world through the eyes of a boy. We did not have handmade quilts in our family, so discovering the quilts of the 1970s was like rediscovering my childhood through the objects I'd never seen before.

It was a revelation, but it was also like visiting with long-lost friends, and it led me on a long and worthwhile journey. Thank you to the staff and volunteers at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum for sharing my interest in these quilts and hosting this exhibition. I look forward to visiting and seeing the installation in person.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

quilted cape from Honolulu

Here's something different. It's a quilted cape from Honolulu. I have seen traditional capes made of feathers but never one made like a quilt. The echo quilting is a hallmark of the popular Hawaiian applique quilts.

A feather cape in the Bishop Museum has almost the same design. I discovered an image online and took a screen shot. The feather cape must have been the inspiration for the quilted one. The designs are remarkably similar, and I am sure the feather cape is much older than the quilted one.

Since it is coming from Hawaii, the seller offered to remove it from the frame for shipping. Thank goodness! I didn't want the frame. Can't wait to see it in person, and get some better photos. Maybe I'll be able to figure out approximately when it was made. The auction description said it was "vintage" but gave no circa date.

After some exhaustive and relatively fruitless Google searches, I finally came up with a possible hit. There are groups that use ceremonial capes. One of those is the Royal Order of Kamehameha I.

I had a chat with Blaine Fergerstrom, Secretary of Chapter 1 of the Royal Order of Kamehameha I in Honolulu, and he loved the cape but hadn't seen a quilted cape before. The capes they use are velour, so possibly this one was made as a unique display piece. Also, the design is not the one their chapter uses. So, the search continues...

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

a quilt, and a choice

In 2006, I acquired a very special quilt. It was a 40th birthday gift to myself, and I got the idea from Shelly Zegart. Shelly's website had quilts for sale, and one had a story about the late Sandra Mitchell buying herself a special quilt for a significant birthday one year.

I thought that was a great idea! 

Mitchell's birthday quilt was for sale at the time, but I chose another quilt, one of the finest in her collection. Five years earlier, I saw the quilt at Shelly's home in Louisville, Kentucky. I was in town for a convention, which had been rescheduled and relocated after 9/11.

It was wonderful visiting with Shelly, but at one point I asked if she had any quilts to show. She led me to a quaint room with a small bed, and under the bed was a box. Inside the box was this quilt. It was the only quilt she showed me that day.

I'm sure I gasped when I saw it. The quilt took my breath away. My heart skipped a beat, and I was weak in the knees all at once. Somehow, I managed to stay upright.

The quilt appeared in Shelly's book, "American Quilt Collections: Antique Quilt Masterpieces" under the entry for the Sandra Mitchell Collection. Mitchell, unfortunately, was not very interested in maintaining family information for quilts, so this quilt was inadvertantly misattributed in the book as an 1860s quilt from Pennsylvania.

Eventually, we discovered two other quilts like it -- I know, hard to believe -- and attributed this quilt to Mary Couchman Small (1800-1863) of Martinsburg, Berkeley County West Virginia. It was made around 1850, when West Virginia was still part of the Virginia Territory.

An almost identical quilt made by her daughter, Harriet, surfaced during the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search, and was featured in the book "Echoes from the Hills, West Virginia Quilts and Quiltmakers" by Fawn Valentine.

When I saw the quilt at Shelly's home in 2001, it was one of the finest quilts I'd ever seen in person, and certainly the most densely quilted.

Five years later, the quilt was available. It was a serious investment, so I had to think seriously about it. My choice was not which quilt to buy, or whether or not to spend the money. It was really more like a promise to myself. In the future, I would do something more with the quilts. With a quilt like this one, I felt obligated.

more gardening

There were violets growing in the gaps between stones in my back yard path. Originally, moss was planted in those spots, but it never did well there and eventually died.

The violets sprung up in place of the moss. The only thing was the violets were growing a little tall, so I moved several of them over to the side.

Maybe the violets will be happy there, and maybe I will be able to finally rid the area of grass and weeds. It's amazing how those plants show up in my yard, just like magic. It's OK, though. I'm watching a little more closely this year, and healthy enough to enjoy spending time in the garden.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Quilt Love

My friend Marjorie Childress has a Facebook community page called Quilt Love. Check it out if you haven't seen it. Marjorie collects the most remarkable quilts.

a modern looking tied wool comforter
courtesy of the Childress Collection and Quilt Love

She sees things others miss, and what she sees is interesting and important. A few of us have started to notice. Some of her quilts were included in the book "Unconventional & Unexpected: American Quilts Below the Radar, 1950-2000" by Roderick Kiracofe.
a quilt inside a quilt
courtesy of the Childress Collection and Quilt Love
The world has yet to see most of Marjorie's collection. I have encouraged her to work on photography to help get the collection out there, and new pictures are gradually starting to appear. You'll see them first at Quilt LoveAll quilts appearing in the photos are part of the Childress Collection, with exceptions noted in the captions. 
a favorite from the Childress Collection
About Quilt Love: Self-expression is a natural human need. Historically, the voice of women has been largely silenced in public domains. That's why you'll see very few women voices in the historical canons of great literature or art. But when you broaden your reference points, it's easy to see women's self-expression, the art of women, in history. All you have to do is look at the quilts. 

Everybody needs a little Quilt Love. Check out the Quilt Love page and the fabulous collection of Marjorie Childress on Facebook. To go there, click here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

garden clean-up

The garden is overgrown again. It's been raining a lot, and cooler than normal. Yesterday there was sun. It was a good day for a garden clean-up.

I use an old oil bucket for gathering the pulled weeds. It came with the house.

Oh, what a mess! I did a little gardening last summer, but not so much in the back of the house. Now that I'm feeling a little healthier, I can get more done.

What a mess! You couldn't even see the path before I got started. Even though it's supposed to be a secret garden, it's not very inviting when the weeds are knee high.

Gradually, I began to make some progress. The stone path appeared.

Looks like it's time to throw some more mulch down. The old mulch got packed down, and now the stones are sticking out a bit too much.

There are lots of violets growing around the path where moss was originally planted. I will try to keep some of those and remove all the weeds and grass. There has been plenty of time for the bees to enjoy the dandelions, and plenty of other flowers around.

Today is supposed to be sunny and warmer. I will pull more weeds before the ground dries up.